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Persisting identities: locating the self and theorizing the nation

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:24 authored by Anastasia Christou
This article theorizes and problematizes the concepts of self and nation as exemplified in stories of return migration to subjects' ancestral homeland (Greece). The personal project of return migration to parents' homeland is densely interconnected with processes of identification perceived by the returnees themselves as the dynamic context wherein the cultural self intersects with the ethnic self in both private and public national constructions. Such interactive processes direct the returnees towards a re-evaluation of notions of home and belonging and allow for the redefinition of otherwise static notions of being and becoming. These processes are central in the returnees' narratives and clearly reflect: (1) the continuous interplay between the returnee as active agent and the national construction of homeland as structure, (2) that incomplete, disjointed and ambivalent identities are realized through the process of return, which challenges previous images and imaginings of the homeland and what home means, and (3) the diasporic journey of return becomes the spatial context of appraisal of nation as a means to realize the self as contextualized through emotional and rational processes of incorporation. The article suggests that return migration is an essential component of global socio-cultural processes and a significant phase of the migration phenomenon that no longer can be underestimated by the social sciences. Furthermore, it argues that the empirical study of such phenomena will contribute to an understanding of new ways in which nationalisms are interrelated to identifications, and how they are produced reproduced, reinforced and challenged. Narratives of return and belonging were gathered through in-depth interviewing with second-generation Greek-American return migrants who made a conscious decision to relocate from their country of birth and origin (USA) to their country of parental extraction, heritage and descent (Greece) throughout the last decade.


Publication status

  • Published


Berkeley Journal of Sociology




Regents of the University of California





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Department affiliated with

  • Geography Publications

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  • Yes

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